February 18, 2013

Russia Drags Dead Lawyer to Court

Sergei Magnitsky's death triggered an outcry from human rights activists (BBC PHOTO)
Sergei Magnitsky’s death triggered an outcry from human rights activists (AFP PHOTO)

The late Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is to go on trial in Moscow in a highly unusual criminal case brought against a dead defendant.
Mr Magnitsky, an auditor at a law firm, was arrested in 2008 after accusing officials of a huge tax fraud, but was later himself accused of those crimes.
He died in custody a year later at the age of 37.
His death sparked a fierce row between Russia and the United States over alleged prison abuses and corruption.
Last year the US passed the Magnitsky Act, which blacklists Russian officials accused of human rights violations.
In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a Russian law barring Americans from adopting Russian orphans.
It is believed to be the first time in Soviet or Russian history that a defendant has been tried posthumously.
Mr Magnitsky represented London-based Hermitage Capital Management (HCM). He uncovered what he described as a web of corruption involving Russian tax officials, including the alleged theft of more than $200m (£125m).
After reporting the allegations to the authorities, he was himself detained on suspicion of aiding tax evasion.
US-born fund manager Bill Browder, who runs Hermitage Capital, spearheaded efforts in the US to put pressure on Russia over the Magnitsky case. Mr Browder was a major investor in Russia before Mr Magnitsky’s arrest.
In December, a Moscow court acquitted a prison doctor accused of negligence over Mr Magnitsky’s death.
He had pancreatitis, but an investigation by Russia’s presidential council on human rights concluded that he had been severely beaten and denied medical treatment.

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